Sundby now writes ski history himself

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Norwegian skiing ace Martin Johnsrud Sundby wrote an essay on the history of skiing 21 years ago, when he was in the fifth grade. Now he’s making history himself as one of the greatest Norwegian skiers ever, after logging yet another victory at Holmenkollen in Oslo over the weekend.

Martin Johnsrud Sundby achieved a childhood dream when he won the men's 50-kilometer race at home in Oslo on Saturday. It was his latest in a long string of World Cup victories, but meant the most to him. PHOTO: Holmenkollen Ski Festival/Magnus Nylokken

Martin Johnsrud Sundby achieved a childhood dream when he won the men’s 50-kilometer race at home in Oslo on Saturday. It was his latest in a long string of World Cup victories, but meant the most to him. PHOTO: Holmenkollen Ski Festival/Magnus Nyløkken

“For me, skis and skiing were the most exciting assignment I could have,” Sundby wrote when he was 11 years old in Oslo, “not just because I think the history of skiing is fun, but also because I’m quite active on skis myself. I train a lot and race, and in the races, it goes pretty well, in fact.”

It’s still going well, in fact, extremely well. Sundby has won the overall World Cup in skiing twice and is heading for a third victory as he continues to lead the pack and confirm his position as the world’s best skier at present. He has also won the gruelling Tour de Ski three times, has 10 gold medals in the Norwegian Championships, one gold medal in the World Championships and both Olympic silver and bronze medals.

On Saturday he won the tough men’s 50-kilometer race with a time of just two hours, eight minutes and 41.9 seconds. He dominated the race and out-classed all his competitors, winning by a margin of 18.8 seconds (a lot in the world of ski racing) over the second-place winner, Norwegian teammate Niklas Dyrhaug. Maxim Vylegzjanin of Russia was third, one minute and five seconds behind Sundby.

Rare praise from Northug
Sundby is so strong and has so much stamina that he even won admiration and compliments from Petter Northug, Norway’s so-called “bad boy of skiing” who was determined to win the 50K himself. Instead, he finished sixth, three minutes behind Sundby.

“It’s so well-deserved that he won, it was an enormous win, and impressive,” Northug told newspaper Aftenposten when it was all over. “He’s stayed in shape through the whole season, before, during and after Tour de Ski. He’s in a league over all of us others.”

That’s high praise from Northug, who all but conceded the race to Sundby, who has indeed worked hard for his victories for years. It was his first time to win the 50K on home turf at Holmenkollen, and with King Harald V watching and congratulating him personally. Sundby kissed the snow after he crossed the finish line, and didn’t manage to hold back some tears of joy.

“It may sound strange, this is no championship race, but the Holmekollen 50K is a classic,” Sundby told Aftenposten. “I’ve dreamed for a long time about winning here. I camped out in a tent along the route when I was little, and cheered on the skiers. And I’ve been so close to winning for nearly four years.”

The 31-year-old Sundby finally did so. “I knew it was going to be hell out there, and had prepared myself for weeks,” Sundby said. “I’m glad all the other skiers didn’t know how much pain I was in. My legs were really screaming on the last two rounds.”

‘Machine from Røa’
Fifty kilometers is a long, long way to ski at high speed. It’s a major endurance contest as well as a test of strength, but Sundby isn’t known as “the machine from Røa” (a district within Oslo) for nothing. It was his 10th World Cup victory this season alone, his 24th individual victory overall, and he appreciated his rivals’ praise, which also streamed in from Dyrhaug, Sjur Røthe and Swedish skiing star Marcus Hellner.

“I didn’t see much of him, he was ahead of me and it was so foggy,” said Hellner, who finished more than seven minutes behind Sundby. “But he impresses, and was a worthy winner who fully deserved tok take this race.” Dyrhaug noted that “I felt strong myself, but he (Sundby) was enormous,” fully agreeing that it was a very tough race indeed.

“I feel really humble hearing all that,” he told Aftenposten, as he stuffed himself with waffles and nuts after the ordeal. “It’s really, really nice to get such feedback from frighteningly strong skiers.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund